I would normally warn whether or not there are spoilers in the revue when it comes to a blockbuster new release such as this but I truly can't. The fact is there is nothing to spoil, not a single surprise or unexpected moment; save for the teaser at the end of the credits which I will not explain but suffice to say there is much sequel baiting in it.
Now don't let all that distract you, this is a good movie. I enjoyed the hell out of it! The action scenes were clear and exciting, the dialogue tight and characters engaging. The actors all took their parts on exceptionally well and what normally is a granted in comic book movies; that there is something to be angry about from a feminist point of view does not hold true here. I will talk in detail about each of the good qualities in the movie without revealing too much detail of what happens, but first Ill explain my lack of enthusiasm at the start of this review.
Marvel's movies will most likely never have any great spoilers, they are incredibly safe and formulaic. Again this is not to deter you; movie formulas exist because they are popular and engaging, and Marvel pulls it's formula off without falling into cliches or being stuck in tropes. I find it difficult to write about the Marvel formula as it is hard to pin down, but I think it can be summarized as getting all the basics right and overlaying that with characterized humor. All in all, Marvel movies are very safe.
Now back to the Avengers. First of all it is not necessary to see previous movies to understand this, if you must see any than I would recommend Iron Man and Thor; it assumes you know the back story of Iron Man and the conflict between Thor and Loki comes off a bit underdeveloped if you haven't seen it before.
Looking to each of the elements of the movies success, firstly the action. The third act is well paced and they really give each character time to show off their skill set. Black Widow less so but they had already given her a lot of time during the movie for solo fight scenes and martial arts isn't as fast paced as the others so it makes sense. However, the final fight is still incredibly formulaic, the hero's emerge kicking ass. Things get difficult, the last reluctant member shows up. They kick more ass until eventually the numbers appear overwhelming and it leads to slow motion panning shots of each of the hero's as they look over the devastation with a realization of 'if we are going to go down, we are going to go down fighting'. And finally the self sacrificial moment that results in a scare... Now before you complain of spoilers I would ask who here really thought Marvel would kill off one of the main six? Hmmmm? Nobody. That's what I thought.
The dialogue and the characterization, now here is where Marvel is really excelling. They are nailing down the most recognizable, merchandisable and easy to understand aspects of the personalities. The genius play boy, the honorable solider, the troubled assassin and her mentoring figure, the inexperience but good-hearted king, and the tormented reason vs emotion. They don't leave it just at this and expand all of these basics to their next logical conclusion, and understand how these would play off each other. Not just to how to arrogance of Tony Stark would conflict with the moral sense of Captain Rogers but how someone who clearly believes in personal freedoms and liberties and enjoying them, such as stark would want to help someone who has to repress his emotions such as Bruce Banner. They then capture the humor that rests in these conflicting personalities and bring it through, not as one-liners but believable (to an extent) dialogue.
How does this movie portray women? It doesn't, it portrays characters, some of whom happen to be women. I knew this movie was on the right track when it introduces Black Widow captured and tied to a chair, she is threatened with torture and death... she is not threatened with rape and this really does make a huge difference if shows that those who have her captured realize that she is an enemy, a danger to them and takes that seriously. It wasn't till later that I realized just how well it portrayed women, aside from one line in this scene 'this is not how I wanted the night to end. BW: I know how you wanted this to end', aside from this one line which suggests a sexual trap she was using there is not a single line of dialogue that needs to be changed if this was a male character again with Agent Hill. They have written the female characters well but how have they actually portrayed them in the shots. A common complaint against comic books and the movies based off of them is that women are forced into awkward poses to try and show off as much as they can in a sexual way. There was a poster for The Avengers which received a fan make over.
I love this work and it really does show what is often a key problem, woman are shown as sexy AT THE COST of their skills, bad-assary and character. Now that said I have no problem with a bit of fan service as long as it does not take place of character development. Black Widow's tight skin clothing makes sense for her role as an assassin. She doesn't have it unzipped for show as it would be impractical and unprofessional. There is one scene where she is talking to Loki and the shot does unquestionably bring her rear end into the shot, but it's not forced it doesn't maker her seem weak as she is holding a strong pose. Marvel is also very aware that their market is growing with these movies, young men are no longer the sole (or majority) audience, and they have adjusted their fan service and it has certainly come across in movies such as Captain America or Thor. Women and gay men like a bit of a show as well, and on that note... Thor... just, just DAMN!
I heartily recommend this movie, I don't mean to bash it as I call it safe because it is still incredibly well done and engaging.
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